A Eurasian Diary: out now!

CoverA Eurasian Diary is now available on Amazon! The book’s ready for download to Kindles, PCs, Macs and all your favourite Virtual Reading Machines.

Covering six-thousand miles over sixty-eight days, A Eurasian Diary is the travelogue of a roundabout kind of reunion. Journeying through China’s Far West, onto the Silk Road and onwards to Europe, we encounter lands that are complex, beautiful and exceedingly friendly – leading us into some welcome (and, at times, a little bit unwelcome, if we’re honest) diversions from Best Laid Plans.

Pick up the story today for $2.99 in U.S. or Canadian money (or £1.99 in the UK). And, with 10% of the proceeds going to support the Community Based Tourism programme in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan, you’ll be helping me give a little something back as well – bargainsauce!

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The end of the lines!

I’m currently as happy as a very happy thing. Take your happiest emoticon – the one with the smile that takes up the entire lower half of the face, and squeezes the eyes tightly shut. Now imagine that emoticon swollen up and plunked on the torso of a real live human being. Hi. That’s me.

After reaching the end of A Eurasian Diary, then working through a handful of edits, I’m happy (as noted) to say that I’ve saved the file as “Final v1” … in other words, it’s done.

…at least until “Final v2” comes along, and perhaps “Final v3.” But, nevermind that… it’s done!

(dances on desk)

(steps on keyboard)

(accidentally types gobbledygook with dancing feet)

(hjsdsdksdksdiuewuhksdsdsdsdkdsksdkskskjsd)

(likes it)

What are some initial reflections on this big, bad, great little experience? One thing that stands out is how different travel writing feels to me now, compared with either fiction or journalism. At first, I’d expected that writing about a journey would feel like blending these two forms into a kind of storified biography, which is indeed how it felt at the very start. As the writing went on, though, the manuscript took on a new life – travel writing is very much a form in its own right, which I suppose I’d never completely appreciated before.

My favourite aspect of it is that you get to be (well, you have to be) objective about your own subjectivity. Continue reading

Pumpkin Party

Pumpkin Party

A happy Hallowe’en Eve to all (or is that a “Hallowe’en’en”?)

More than any other holiday in the year, this is the one that reminds me most of being a kid. Sticking your hand into the cold, stinking innards of a freshly-opened pumpkin. Fake-blood caking on your skin. Toffee that required a half hour’s chewing. Being a kid was a bloody nightmare.

These pumpkins were photographed one year ago now, virtually to the day. This bazaar in Fergana, Uzbekistan, was piled high with dried figs and apricots, naan breads and lambs’ legs, and squashes of every shape and size.

This selection have had the rinds sliced open to expose the bright fruit inside – they’re fresh, orange, and just about ready to go – all they really need is to be hollowed and carved into gruesome faces, obviously.

The final leg!

There comes a time in every journey when the gravitational pull of home takes over – psychologically as much as geographically, you’re closer than ever to completing your quest, and getting closer by the second.

That’s where things are with my wee little travelogue project – I’m now writing the very final paragraphs in A Eurasian Diary, with just 2,000 words to go till the whole first draft is done and dusted…! Wowsers. Should I be ecstatic or misty-eyed?

Whether with actual travel or with a big writing project, both emotions seem to apply. There’s sadness that your stream of discovery is drawing to a close, and that your daily triumphs in conquering the terrifying unknown (a.k.a. unwritten pages) are soon to be all completed. But, there’s also more than a bit of pride in having survived the quest you set out for yourself, and you can now indulge in some wonderful, well-earned comforts: spare time, and fantastic memories. Plus, once you’re done, you know you’re even better equipped now to go and do it again.

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Excerpt Alert! Fill your boots with Guangxi goodness

After thousands of words covering thousands of kilometres, I’m at a big new frontier in this old travelogue project – I’m finally about to leave China for good. Sniffle.

Travelling in China, and of course writing about travelling in China, continues to astound me – the varied landscapes and diets, melodies and faiths, and the stark divide between the medieval and the 23rd Century.

It feels almost ridiculous to consider China in the singular – it’s anything but (despite the obvious role of the Party in everyday life). In reality, there are hundreds of Chinas, thousands maybe, and they feel like they go on forever. By the time I got to Kashgar in the west of Xinjiang, I was closer to the Mediterranean than to the Pacific – closer to Ankara to its own capital of Beijing.

So, as I begin to write about finally crossing that rumpled border into neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, I feel I’m saying goodbye once again to a country so enigmatic and baffling that I get a little misty eyed. Just mist, mind. Not actual tears. OK, one tear.

To commemorate the little milestone in the progress of this (seemingly neverending) book, I’m including here an excerpt from one of my earlier chapters. Oh yes. I’m literally giving literally away 1,695 words on those first impressions from the ruggedly handsome province Guangxi, home to the snaking River Li and its towering limestone mountains. Your own impressions, reviews, comments, raves etc. are, as always, welcome 🙂 Continue reading

On writing milestones: Escape Velocity at 30K!

There are few better feelings in this world than bashing down milestones. Bashing them into absolute gravel, then tossing the gravel high up in to the air and then, as it rains gravel all over your head, you laugh. Like a certifiable maniac.

Just to be clear, that was me Tuesday night at about 2.

The source of this madness? Excitement at having finally cleared the magical 30,000 word mark on A Eurasian Diary, which felt like a long time coming, but, woo hoo, it’s here!

30K is a magical milestone, I think, as, whether writing a novel or a travelogue, that’s the point where it often feels you’ve achieved real escape velocity. You’re no longer weighed down with doubts in the enterprise itself, you’ve found your tone and have (hopefully) got your word economy sorted out, and the momentum is very much with you. Meaning, of course, that tonight I have incredibly unrealistic expectations, and somehow assume I will just bang off 2,000 words of infallible gospel before the pizza even has time to burn…. Continue reading